The nucleotide sequence deduced from the amino acid sequence of the scorpion insectotoxin AaIT was chemically synthesized and was expressed in Escherichia coli. The authenticity of this in vitro expressed peptide was confirmed by N-terminal peptide sequencing. Two groups of bioassays, artificial diet incorporation assay and contact insecticidal effect assay, were carried out separately to verify the toxicity of this recombinant toxin. At the end of a 24 h experimental period, more than 60% of the testing diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) larvae were killed in both groups with LC50 value of 18.4 mM and 0.70 μM respectively. Cytotoxicity assay using cultured Sf9 insect cells and MCF-7 human cells demonstrated that the toxin AaIT had specific toxicity against insect cells but not human cells. Only 0.13 μM recombinant toxin was needed to kill 50% of cultured insect cells while as much as 1.3 μM toxin had absolutely no effect on human cells. Insect cells produced obvious intrusions from their plasma membrane before broken up. We infer that toxin AaIT bind to a putative sodium channel in these insect cells and open the channel persistently, which would result in Na+ influx and finally cause destruction of insect cells.
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This work was supported by a grant from 863 High Technology Program, Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.
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JI, S., LIU, F., LI, E. et al. Recombinant scorpion insectotoxin AaIT kills specifically insect cells but not human cells. Cell Res 12, 143–150 (2002) doi:10.1038/sj.cr.7290120
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